International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said at the World Economic Forum on Wednesday that global food shortages represent a “dire” situation — meaning that nations like the United States must increase their production and exports.
Many disadvantaged nations across the globe are experiencing constrained supply amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The two countries combined produce roughly 12% of the world’s calories, as well as 30% of the world’s traded wheat. The United Nations warned as early as March that Ukraine’s ability to “harvest crops, plant new ones or sustain livestock production” is in jeopardy due to the conflict.
During an interview with Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo, Georgieva characterized the situation as “indeed very dire.”
“Before the war, already there were parts of the world where agricultural productivity dropped as a result of weather events, the Horn of Africa, but also India, which could modestly put some export for the world if that didn’t happen,” she explained. “The war, of course, is horrific in this environment. The fact that Russia has blocked the export of grain from Ukraine translates into hunger and yes, potentially famine in Africa … in parts of the Middle East.”
Indeed, African nations like Kenya and Ethiopia — which are already struggling with drought conditions and related livestock deaths — are facing compounded food shortages amid the rise in food prices.
As Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government pursues a zero-COVID policy, the communist nation is experiencing an economic slowdown. Although the phenomenon led to a slight reprieve in commodity prices, the cost of food continues to increase, according to Georgieva.
She therefore recommended “openness in exports of food,” refraining from “food restrictions,” and not buying “more food than you need for your own country,” as well as the United States increasing agricultural output for the rest of the world.
Nevertheless, the United States has by no means been immune to food shortages. In particular, a lack of baby formula has led to hospitalizations among Americans’ babies.
President Biden is attempting to resolve the baby formula shortage with “Operation Fly Formula,” through which the military is importing the product from Europe.
“Folks, I’m excited to tell you that the first flight from Operation Fly Formula is loaded up with more than 70,000 pounds of infant formula and about to land in Indiana,” Biden tweeted on Sunday. “Our team is working around the clock to get safe formula to everyone who needs it.”
The shipment of baby formula that arrived on Sunday will be distributed across the country, a Biden administration official told CNN. The formula in the initial load is bound for hospitals, doctors, home health care facilities, and pharmacies in regions with the most serious needs. The shortage has rendered parents frustrated as shelves remain bare at popular retailers like Walmart and Target. Many of these retailers have imposed limits on formula purchases such that mothers cannot stock up even when it becomes available. Most brands are also sold out online or are being offered by third-party sellers for exorbitant prices.
According to a report released by Datasembly last month, the out-of-stock rate for baby formula surged to 23% by January and 31% by April.
“Inflation, supply chain shortages, and product recalls have brought an unprecedented amount of volatility for baby formula,” Datasembly CEO Ben Reich said in the report. “We expect to continue to see the baby formula category being dramatically affected by these conditions.”